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Courage Under Fire
Exodus 20:3-5 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol… 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” You shall have no other gods before me and shall not worship them or serve them. When Jesus was asked: What is the greatest commandment?” He replied, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.”- To love God with everything we’ve got. And the failure to completely worship Yahweh alone… is idolatry. Maybe when you think of Idolatry you think of religious statues or other similar idols. Idolatry is:
it is not only the worship of false gods through false religions or having statues (even if your trying to worship the true God)
Idolatry is the ultimate corruption of true worship to God alone in the way God wants
Idolatry entails the putting on the throne of our lives, things like: self, money, sex, romance, entertainment, sports, education, possessions, pleasure, prominence and power, people, pornography, and other such gods.
Idolatry is the most basic issue about which God is concerned. Did you get that? Idolatry is the most basic issue in terms of the life of man in which God is concerned. It is the first commandment
in the Hebrew Scriptures it is likened to committing adultery. Israel is called a prostitute for worshipping other gods.
God’s righteous anger toward idolatry is like the anger a husband would feel after coming home one afternoon to find his wife in bed with another man.
Or it is like the anger a wife might feel if she were to discover that her husband had been cheating on her with her best friend.
To God- idolatry in any form is appalling
This morning let’s consider: Who or what do you and I worship? What idol or idols have we set up in our homes or in our minds or in our hearts that take precedence in our life and squeeze out the fire of devotion that we should have for Christ alone as His apprentices?
Transition: This morning as we look at God’s Word in Daniel chapter 3 we uncover what may be the most exciting and quintessential example of God’s followers standing up against idolatry in the whole Bible.
The Context (3:1) 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
Most powerful King in world
Captivity of Daniel
Description of golden image
Wood overlaid with gold
The Command (3:2-6)2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble … all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then… they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.
What is going on here?
It’s a worship service-
with music to begin the dedication service
and a god to bow down and worship
King Nebby was smart- he was one of the world’s greatest architects, statesmen, soldiers, and strategists
And so he’s here we see him trying to unify his people and He’s going to use religion as a means to politically unity.
We can see this kind of religio/political requirement to worship the state god or gods throughout history
Japanese Emperor worship
Egyptian Pharaoh worship
Complete submission to the state in Communism
The Ceasars of the Roman Empire.
Ceasar is Lord vs Jesus is Lord
At one point in the earlier days of the church under the reign of Nero, the Christian were lit on fire to light the palace gardens at night.
On other occasions the Christians were fed to hungry lions to devour them as entertainment for the crowds.
an all they had to do was say Ceasar is Lord
Now In verse 6 we see King Nebachadnezzar require this same kind of allegiance saying 6 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”
Either you will bow or burn.
Nebby is requiring Kingdom wide conformity to idolatry
Transition: In verse seven we see the conformity.
The Conformity (3:7) 7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the… music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Everyone conformed to obey the kings command- Imagine the scene
The celebration of dedication was to begin
The royal orchestra began to play signaling that it was time to bow.
Picture 1000’s of people as far as the eye could see dropping to their faces on the ground
The whole mindless, relativistic, polytheistc, idol worshipping mass of people simply conformed and offered their bodies in worship of the golden image
Brothers and Sisters may we be reminded of this folly
when we are tempted to conform to the world system
when we’re tempted to participate in the idolatry of our neighbors.
when we’re tempted bow our lives to people or things and not to God.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Are you conforming to the world or are you being conformed to the image of God’s Son?
Transition: Daniel continues in verse 8 with the crime.
The Crime (3:8-12) 8 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. 9 They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 “You, O king, have made a decree that every man who… does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
Imagine the landscape- people bowing as far as the eye could see- and three stood!
And the moment they stood- they became criminals
What a perfect case of civil disobedience-
the civil law said bow- they stood
because the ultimate Lawgiving God said don’t bow.
What a pledge of allegiance to Yahweh
What a band of brothers standing together as men of valor
I read of a man named Studdart Kennedy- a pastor in England and chaplain during WWI who had to go to war and leave his family. He had a little son and he wrote a letter to his little son from the trenches of France where he was in the midst of very serious warfare. And under fire this is what he wrote through his wife for his son couldn’t read yet: He wrote:
“The first prayer I want my son to learn to say for me is not- God keep Daddy safe. The first prayer I want my son to learn is God, make Daddy brave and if he has hard things to do, make him strong to do them. Life and death don’t matter, my son, right and wrong do. Daddy dead is Daddy still. But Daddy dishonored before God is something too aweful for words. I suppose you’d like to put in a bit about safety too and Mother would. Well put it in afterwards, always afterwards for it doesn’t matter nearly as much.”
Kennedy was right- A Daddy compromised is something aweful.
If Shadrach Meshach and Abedego would have bowed to the golden image they would have become something aweful.
Will we compromise? or
Will we pledge allegiance to our King Jesus- and standup with uncompromising integrity to do the right thing, at all costs?
Transition: In verse 13 we see more courage.
The Courage (3:13-18) 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the… music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
“what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
I bet Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego chuckled when Nebby asked this and thought to themselves
Are you kidding? Our God is the maker of heaven and earth and the earth is His footstool. Mr King Sir- no offense but He is the one who gives you your power to rule and the One who gives you your very breath.
In asking this question- King Nebby claims to be the most powerful god that there is- and basically says, “come on guys, there is no god who can deliver you out of my hands, do you really want to do this? I’ll give you one more chance to worship my image or I will destroy you.”
Temptation to idolatry and compromise is like this, isn’t it? and often asks us:
“do you really want to stand up in uncompromising integrity?
”Do you really want to suffer the consequences for standing up for Christ before men?
Are you really into this Christianity thing that you would be killed?
Do you remember the Columbine High School shootings a few years ago? The shooters at columbine played the same game as Nebachadnezzar
One killer put a gun to the head seventeen–year–old Cassie Bernall and asked, “Do you believe in God?” She paused for a second, and then she answered, “Yes”. “She was scared, but she sounded strong,” said her Bible–study friend Joshua Lapp, “like she knew what she was going to answer.” Staring at her, the gunman asked, “Why?” Before she could reply, he pulled the trigger and shot her through the temple, killing her instantly
At this point, I can imagine that even though they trusted God, Shadrach and his friends must have really been counting the cost of following Him.
I think of Jesus word’s to his disciples in Matt chapter 10:
and you shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the gentiles.
And you will be hated by all on account of My name
And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
And whosoever, shal deny me before men I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.
And then in verse 16– 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.
This answer to the King is priceless:
“we do not need to give you an answer” is not arrogance.
It may better be translated, “We just don’t have anything to say, there is nothing to say. We plead guilty. We admit our crime against you. We’re standing and that’s the way we’ll remain.”
And then they say something that may be most magnificent statement anyone makes in the whole bible. Probably the greatest affirmation of true faith anywhere in Holy Scripture.
In verse 17 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
end of speech, period, chalk that one up to memory-
One recent study of Daniel put it his way: One way or another God will deliver us when we face a fiery trial:
We can be delivered from the fire- So that our faith is built
We can be delivered through the fire- so that our faith is refined
We can be delivered by the fire straight into God’s arms- so that our faith is perfected
I read of a woman named Esther Ahn Kim. She was a Korean Christian woman who was asked to bow to the Shinto god of Japan during WWII. The Japanese were known for horrible torture and Esther was a weak woman. Do you know what this frail woman did to remain strong and courageous in the midst of her persecution? She remembered Daniel 3…and she repeated “but if not, but if not, but if not.
What will we do when we face the fire? Will we be courageous?
Transition: Will we like the Shadrach and is friends, and Esther Kim, and the Columbine Christians, and approach the fire with the attitude of trust in God- saying “But if not” counting the cost?
The Cost (3:19-23)19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.
Brothers and Sisters- this is the cost of discipleship unto the Lord
John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you
2 Timothy 3:12 all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
If you are a child of God, you will be thrust into the fire.
Paul says “By much tribulation shall ye enter into the kingdom of God.”
And Paul didn’t just talk the talk- He walked it and is an amazing model of courage under fire. His suffering staggers the mind. 2 Cor, gives us a glimpse:
2 Corinthians 11:24-25 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; etc.etc.
John Piper comments on Paul’s suffering and writes, “lest we pass over this too quickly, without having the breath knocked out of us, consider what it meant to receive “forty lashes less one.” It meant that he was stripped and tied to some kind of stake so that he would not run or fall. Then a person trained in flogging would take whip, maybe with or without shards in the leather, and lash Paul’s back thirty-nine times. Halfway through, or earlier perhaps, the skin would probably begin to break and tear. By the end there would be parts of Paul’s back that were like jelly. The lacerations were not clean, as with a razor blade. The skin was torn and shredded, so that the healing was slow and perhaps complicated by infection. They knew nothing of sterilization in those days, and had no antiseptics. It would take months perhaps before his garments could hang on his back without pain.
Now with that view, consider that this happened again a second time on the same back, opening all the scars. It healed more slowly the second time. Then consider that some months later it happened a third time. Imagine what his back must have looked like. Then it happened again. And finally it happened a fifth time. And this is just one of Paul’s sufferings.
And through it all- he is not bitter at God or the world but in Philippians is able to write to us about the secret of contentment in all circumstances- the strength of Jesus Christ.
His encounter with the fire didn’t caused him to compromise his integrity or worship idols before the living God- and one day they put his head on a block and an axe head flashed in the sun and severed it from his body.
Jesus said, “He who has lost his life for my sake shall find it”
The whole history of God’s people is this same story- people giving their lives in service to the King of Kings.
Christ bids us come and die. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Will we abandon it all for the sake of the call? And count the cost to follow Christ?
Transition: And there is only one way that that standing up and facing the fire makes any sense: Because God is the God who is there and who is with us and walks with as our companion
The Companion 3:24-25 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
Imagine the scene- Nebachadnezzar is astounded:
They are not bound but they are free
They’re not not lying down but they are walking around
They not burned up but hey are completely unhurt
There are four not three
The three men are chillin in the fire with someone who to King Nebby appeared as “a son of the gods”
In the midst of the fire these guys were not helpless and alone- they had a helper, a Comforter, a companion who loosed their chains- a pre-incarnate visit of Christ Himself- The Son of God!
I can just see Christ reminding them of His words to them in Isaiah 43:1-3 “1Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine…. 2 When you walk through the fire I will be there, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
How awesome that experience must have been!
Will we remember that God will meet us in our times of need? And will be with us in the midst of the fire?
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee—I only design, Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The Conclusion (3:26-30)
Shadrach and His friends were called out of the fire by King Nebby unharmed not even smelling like fire.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t even BBQ hamburgers without smelling like smoke
King Nebachadnezzar Blessed their God and made a decree that no one in the whole land could blaspheme Yahweh under penalty of law.
And then in VS 30 “then the King caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedneggo to prosper.”
and our King will do the same.
Jesus said: Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life:
You and I may never face a fiery furnace, but as disciples of Jesus we undoubtedly will face trials by fire.
And when those times come- be courageous under fire.
Stand before your peers without compromising
Stand before Kings without compromising
Stand before idols without compromising
Stand before the flames without compromising
Have courage under fire- then (when its all said and done) you will stand before the King of Kings to reap your reward.
And when we leave this place let’s commit our lives to worship Jesus Christ alone- with everything we’ve got- heart, soul, mind, and strength- because He’s the only God and He’s worthy to be praised.
While our heads are bowed let me ask you- What do you worship? When I ask- What are the idols in your life? What do you think of? What immediately comes to mind? That’s probably it. What have you placed before God? Where have you put God? In the backseat?
If you are not a Christian, you hve all kinds of idols and you are living a life that is denying the glory of God. Won’t you come to Jesus Christ and make Him the Savior, confess him as Lord? Then there are many of you Christians who have confessed Chrsit and yet you find yourself disrtracted and going in the wrong direction toward idols of this world.
This is a good time to confess to the Lord that you have some idols. Have you examined your heart? What about possessions, or plenty, or pride, or people, or pleasure, or projects, or prominence, or education, or prestige, or sex, or money, or a hobby, or sports, or entertainment? Anything? Only Christ and Christ alone is to be King.
Father God, speak to our hearts this morning. And may we set aside the gods of this world, the emptiness, the false deities in our lives that only steal us away from You. May we set aside idols and worship you. No matter what the nebachadnezzars there are in our lives, who in their dominion and so-called sovereignty cry to us to bow, may we never bow. Help us to stand true, uncompromisingly to take our place in adoring and glorifying you.
And Father may we trust in your great delivering power and allow the trials and tribulations that come our way to be those things which build, refine, or perfect or faith. May we not compromise and forfeit the blessedness that is ours when we stand true. And may we know that through it all, You, our dearest companion will be with us to strengthen us in the midst of the battle.